Kids usually go right to the M47 Patton tank upon entering the ALCO Heritage Museum. They run their hands over its dark steel shell, or climb up onto the 1952 tank and pretend to drive one of the more than 8,500 M47 Pattons that American Locomotive Co. produced right down the road six decades ago.
Families can see the historic tank, along with many other exhibits at the Maxon Road Extension facility for free, now that the ALCO Heritage Museum is the latest cultural institution to join the Schenectady County Public Library’s pass program.
“It was made right here in Schenectady and the kids love it,” said Museum Director Jim Cesare, who said attendance has been steady since the museum’s grand opening earlier this summer.
He hopes that by participating in the Library Pass Program, a new segment of people will be able to come in on weekends and see the museum’s erecting shop, cab simulator, restoration shop and other exhibits.
The program allows library cardholders to sign out a pass, just like a book, for a free or reduced entrance fee to one of more than a dozen area museums and institutions. Supported by the Friends of the Library, the passes are available first come, first served at the central library on Clinton Street for county residents 18 and older with a valid library card.
Cardholders can sign out a pass for two days at a time.
“I came in personally last week to see the museum myself and was very impressed by what I saw there,” said Rita Moore, who coordinates the pass program and first reached out to Cesare about joining a couple months ago.
The Friends of the Library membership committee co-chair has helped grow the program since it first began about three years ago with only local venues participating. Now, it boasts 14 partners with some as far away as Amherst, Mass.
Participating venues include local staples like miSci (formerly the Schenectady Museum) in Schenectady, the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville and Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction. Other venues are longer drives, including the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, the Hyde Collection Art Museum & Historic House in Glens Falls, Old Stone Fort in Schoharie and USS Slater-Destroyer Escort Historical Museum in Albany.
Out-of-state venues include the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Hancock Shaker Village, Norman Rockwell Museum and MASS MoCa in Massachusetts, and the Bennington Museum in Vermont.
“It’s a wonderful partnership to share the cultural wealth of both museums and libraries,” said Moore, who also works part time at the library’s reference desk. “A family could come in to check out a pass, and even do some research right in the library on that site.”
She did her own research when putting the program together a few years ago, talking to librarians in Guilderland and elsewhere who had overseen similar programs.
“From what they could tell me, I was able to put together a program that is now very successful,” she said. “There’s quite a bit of community support for it.”
Most passes are for free admittance, with some offering discounted admission. The terms of each pass vary by venue, with some limiting admittance to one adult and one child and others allowing in families of four or more. Some offer discounts at gift shops and others exclude special events.
The passes do, however, come with heftier fines than most books at the library. Overdue passes are $5 a day, and passes also come with replacement fees, which can be as low as $10 or as pricey as $100 (MASS MoCa, if you were wondering). The reason for this is that there are only a certain number of passes available at the library, with up to four available for the closest locales.
But the program provides opportunity for families who might otherwise have had none, and that keeps Moore happy.
The other day she overheard a man and his son at the reference desk who were just learning about the program for the first time.
“It was just heartwarming to see how excited he was about being able to do something like this with his son,” she said. “And I think he may have been financially challenged, so it made it very worthwhile for me to see that excitement.”
For more information on the Library Pass Program, visit www.scpl.org/resources_services/library_pass_program.html.